Thursday, November 27, 2008

Lightning Show toughness, Still Can't Beat the Rangers

By JC De La Torre

Before Wednesday night's game against the top team in the Eastern Conference, the New York Rangers, interim head coach Rick Tocchet made it clear that the effort against the New Jersey Devils was unacceptable and gave the edict of get tougher or get out. The Bolts were definitely tougher against the powerful Rangers, but the results were still the same - a 3-2 shootout loss.

"This is for everybody," Tocchet told the St. Petersburg Times before the game, "If the results aren't there, I don't care who it is, you're not going to play. I don't know if we're at that time yet, but it's getting close. We're going to have to get a little bit of urgency. We thought we had some baby steps, but then New Jersey happened. Was Jersey something that just happened or is it something that we have problems, we're going to start getting rid of people here?"

The message was sent and the Bolts responded in a scoreless first period where rookie Steven Stamkos got into his first NHL fight, while Evgeny Artyukhin and Colton Orr exchange pleasantries at the end of the first.

The second period opened with the teams trading goals, New York's Markus Naslund opened the scoring at 2:40 of the second and two minutes later Ryan Malone answered on the power play. Finally, with 7:23 left in the 2nd period and the game tied at one the heavyweight bought everyone was waiting for took place. Lightning toughman David Koci versus Rangers Enforcer Colton Orr.

Orr got loose on a few blasts early in the fight, but Koci connected with a right hand to the snoz of Orr and rocked him, dominating the rest of the battle until Orr turtled.

Late in the Period, with Ryan Malone off for hooking Scott Gomez, the Rangers took the lead on the power play with a Naslund blast from the point. New York took a 2-1 into the second intermission.

The lead would hold until late in the third period when with 0:50 left in the game, Mark Recchi redirected a Martin St. Louis shot past Henrik Lundqvist to tie it at 2.

After the scoreless overtime period, we went to the Lightning's dread - the shootout. Vrbata and Jussi Jokinen would miss their chances, Markus Naslund and Nikolai Zherdev wouldn't and there's your hockey game.

Tocchet seemed pleased with the Lightning's effort but graded their net presence a B-. "We're just having a tough time scoring goals. We've got to roll up our sleeves and keep going to work," the interim head coach told the Times, "It was an intense game, and that's going to happen. The intensity I'm talking about is coming up with loose pucks, going to the net. It's still a work in progress. Overall, the guys worked hard."

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